In the pantheon of WWE PPV shows, SummerSlam is a close third to The Royal Rumble. It’s part of the big four (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, SummerSlam) shows of the year. The original four that WWE would run before the adoption of the monthly show system. SummerSlam is usually the hardcore wrestling fans show. By that, I mean, Wrestlemania is the casual fans dream show. You see all the big matchups, some celebrities, and you usually go home happy. SummerSlam on the other hand, is usually where the hardcore fans get what they want. There are some exceptions like Wrestlemania 30 with Daniel Bryan, but usually it’s a hardcore fans show.
Over the years, there have been many great SummerSlam events. That Hashtag Show’s John Pingel went over his favorite SummerSlam events in the video above, with 2013 being his number one. That show in my opinion is a two match show. CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena are two instant classics. But the rest of the card doesn’t have that pop. So I went searching for my own favorite SummerSlam from the time I restarted watching wrestling, just after SummerSlam 2013.
The Candidates For My Favorite “Modern” SummerSlam
So when you go through the “modern” SummerSlam cards, it’s a LOT of Brock Lesnar. From 2014-2019, he main evented every show. 2014 had a crazy main event with Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena in a hugely surprising squash match. That event was a good one, but the rest of the card and the main event overall don’t have enough for me. I was fully into the Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose feud going on at the time, but a lumberjack match is lame. Even this one, which is probably the best example of a lumberjack match, didn’t do it for me.
Going forward in time, you have 2015, which is kind of a meh show overall. The Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker match ended on a wet fart. John Stewart somehow had to get involved in the Seth Rollins vs. John Cena match. Finally, it was just the start to a women’s revolution in WWE, but was still plagued by including all of them in a multi-person match. Also starting off with a Sheamus vs. Randy Orton match is a meme.
So, we get to what I consider to be my favorite SummerSlam of the modern era. SummerSlam 2016 was filled with hope and intrigue. The WWE had just brought back the brand split, Raw and Smackdown had done their drafts. Smackdown got Dean Ambrose as it’s WWE Champion and Raw had to crown a new champion. The best part? Brock Lesnar’s shadow was nowhere near the title scene.
Just Why SummerSlam 2016 Is So Awesome
Like I said before, it was a renewed period of hope and intrigue for WWE. The brand split was new and exciting. AJ Styles had made his debut in January for the company. The Universal Title was being contested by two of the best in the company. Even Dolph Ziggler had some refreshing momentum with his match against Dean Ambrose. Charlotte and Sasha Banks put on a clinic and gave mainstream WWE audiences a taste of what these two could do with time and a story.
The fact that Brock Lesnar was relegated to “special attraction” match against Randy Orton was the icing on the cake. It was the only match to cross that brand barrier. Which made it that much more shocking when Randy Orton showed up on Raw to attack Brock Lesnar. The card itself isn’t perfect, but you’re not going to get a perfect card on any wrestling show in hindsight.
What Are The Lowlights?
The only two lowlight matches on the card are The Miz vs. Apollo Crews and the 6-woman tag match. WWE still wasn’t fully integrated in a period of Women being equal to the men, so they jammed 6 women together in a match. The Miz vs. Apollo Crews had some intrigue because Crews is a dynamite performer, but it just didn’t have the time or the attention it needed.
John Cena vs. AJ Styles, Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins Overperform
The John Cena vs. AJ Styles match is an instant classic like all of their meetings so far. Go back and just rewatch any of their clashes. The real highlight and hope point that was dashed faster than you could think was Finn Balor’s Demon King debut and win. In this match Seth Rollins continued his unfair tag of being unsafe in the ring. Balor tore his shoulder up and he was forced to relinquish the title. Before that, though, we were gifted with an amazing match by Rollins and Balor.
The Brock Lesnar Elephant In The SummerSlam Room
Yes, I know the Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton match ended with a brutal blow to Randy Orton by Lesnar. Apparently Lesnar said he could “safely” open up Randy Orton to make the finish more shocking and like a UFC bout. What ended up happening was a grisly, jagged, gash to Orton’s head that no one could guess if it was supposed to happen like that or not. It even worked the performers in the back, with Chris Jericho trying to confront Brock Lesnar for being unsafe. At the end of the day, it gave the WWE some huge mainstream news coverage.
For one night, it all appeared that WWE had their plans for the future decided. The two main titles were held my workhorse champions. They had two amazing feuds going with AJ Styles/John Cena and Brock Lesnar wasn’t in the title picture. Following the show, that hope and intrigue would get thrown out the window, but it seemed like WWE had caught lightning in a bottle.
So, what do you think? Are you a fan of SummerSlam? What’s your favorite show of all-time?